Dad & Daughter

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-3-

Leaving many bakeries behind, as the car moved forward at a good speed, Jayaprakash was inquisitive to find out where he was being taken to. Many times he expressed his opinion to buy cakes from the local shops. Khanna refused to heed him and agreed to reach back much before the planned time of the party by the children. He kept pressing the pedal. As the car entered Connaught Place, he said. “I know one shop in Gol Market. The cake there will be too delicious to be remembered by children and their invitees.” He chuckled and stopped in front of a huge shop.

“First we will have a coffee.” Khanna led Jayaprakash to an air-conditioned hall where music was being played with most of the tables occupied. When the waiter came, Khanna ordered coffee.

“From your face, I could make out how much worried you are,” Khanna said with emotion. “When I realize that the root cause of the whole problem is me, I feel quite uncomfortable.”

Jayaprakash exhibited his helplessness in his eyes and looked at him without hatred. “I know sir.”

“I never expected, such unit details would reach the Command Headquarters.” Thinking Khanna continued. “Some jokers had played a foul game to trap me and you. This information wouldn’t have gone to the higher up unless the staff of our section played the game. I doubt sergeant Chacko who is your trustworthy airman.”

Thinking Jayaprakash said. “I don’t think sir. I agree, the information would have leaked out to the Command Headquarters by one of our staff. But, can’t be by Chacko.”

Both remained silent.

Khanna broke the silence. “Whatever had happened can’t be reverted. Now let’s think of ways to extricate ourselves out of this mess. As you know, in the eyes of law, this is swindling of public funds. You and I will have to answer.” Thinking he continued. “Before taking this method of finding funds to meet my urgent requirement, I had spoken to Squadron Leader Biswas about the adjustment and he gave me his full concurrence.”

Jayaprakash interluded. “Sir, the Command team has verified that this officer was not actually on leave and took the amount as leave advance with fabricated leave advance voucher. No one will help. Once the court of inquiry is ordered this officer will not be able to support his claim without leave application. Knowing that fully well, he will come out with the truth.”

After coffee, Khanna took him to the shop and bought two cakes of similar sizes. When Jayaprakash opened the purse to make the payment, Khanna forbid him and paid the amount.

On their way back, Khanna diverted the car to RK Puram saying he wanted to meet squadron Leader Biswas, on whose name the voucher was prepared.

Jayaprakash was not happy to while away time by visiting anyone’s residence, as he knew the children would be waiting for them. Looking at the watch he said, “sir, it is almost four-thirty.”

With a chuckle, Khanna said, “nothing to worry man. We will get back much before their planned time. Even if we get late, just inform them to commence the program with the preliminaries.”

They drove to the house of Biswas. He was staying in a rented house at RK Puram, due non-availability of service quarters. As per him, he was happy in that environment as the neighbors were very friendly and all facilities were available within walking distance; including children’s school.

When the call bell was pressed Mrs. Biswas opened the door and ushered them in. Biswas was busy with his daily work out on the treadmill and on getting information about their arrival, he came in his tracksuit wiping neck and shoulders with a Turkish towel. Taking his seat next to Khanna, he asked the wife to prepare coffee for them.

“Not required.” Khanna tried to be formal. “We just had from Gol Market. Please don’t bother.”

Biswas could judge the intention of their visit and without waiting for any preliminaries he opened up the topic. Once his wife left the sitting room, he said, “I knew the Command Accounts Officer came and pointed out the anomaly in accounts.” After a pause, he asked, “will I be subjected to be questioned?” With regret, he looked at Khanna. “You being my friend, I could not refuse your request to sign the leave advance application. Also, I did the mistake of signing as having received the amount.” He looked at both Accounts Officers and heaved a sigh. “I am sure, that Command is not going to leave the case lightly. They have come with pre-determined agenda after getting clear proof of the whole money transaction. That person would have briefed our Commanding Officer on the whole and I am sure, he will have to investigate by ordering a court of inquiry.”

Khanna had no words to satisfy him. “It was a matter of a few days to receive the bank loan. As I was interested to complete the work as early as possible, I resorted to taking this wrong step. I was informed by someone in Air Headquarters that my posting is expected to be out at any moment. Before leaving this place on posting to some other place, I was interested to complete the whole work and hand over the house on rent.” With a pause, he continued. “I was overenthusiastic to complete the work as early as possible, as already one officer had mentioned his interest to take my house on rent.”

“You had mentioned that this adjustment was only for a few days and I agreed.” Heaving a long sigh, he kept the towel aside and said, “in my service life, so far, I was particular not to get into any malpractices; especially on finance matters. This is going to spoil my entire service records.”

Jayaprakash felt pity and said very softly, “don’t worry sir. I will take the whole blame on my shoulders.”

Biswas looked down and said, “it is not the question of taking the whole blame or not. It is a clear case of misappropriation of public funds. I had accepted the leave advance without even putting the leave application, which is mandatory to avail of advance. I will surely be punished.” He paused. “I haven’t told about this to my wife. She would beat her head and cry thinking of our future. While walking on the treadmill, my mind was clogged with this subject.” He chuckled. “Being a friend, you shouldn’t have sought such help from me.”

Cutting a sorry figure, Khanna said, “the whole blame will be borne by me. I will tell the Commanding Officer that this minor adjustment was done by me taking your help.” Showing happiness, he continued. “Today I got a message from the bank that the house loan instalment amount has been credited into my account.”

Biswas showed his face and said, “had you had waited for a few more days, you could have avoided all these problems.”

“Nothing to worry. I will handle that tactfully. I will speak to the Command Headquarters and request not to proceed with the matter.”

Biswas grunted. “you are living in fool’s paradise. Do you think that the Command will keep quiet? The matter might have gone to a much higher level, for a person to come and carry out the surprise cash checks. Do you think, they would have come unless they got concrete evidence of misappropriation of funds?” Shaking head, he said. “I expect something serious, though the subject might be trivial. Whatever influence you might have, getting wriggled out of this mess is tricky.” He was firm in his conviction.

Jayaprakash sat mute listening to their conversation, with a bewildered look, thinking about the impending problems he might have to face.

Looking at Jayaprakash, Biswas said, “I pity for this young officer. For no fault of his, to help his senior he might have to carry a huge cross.”

Khanna said laughing, “you are making a mountain out of a mole. When I have asked for help, I must help the ones who helped me. I will look after you both.”

Biswas chuckled. “Your confidence is the only consolation. Unless you resolve this, we will have to spend sleepless nights brooding over this.”

Khanna laughed. “Not required at all. I will abide by my words.” Looking at the watch he said, “Today is Jayaprakash’s children’s birthday. You know they are twins. Grown-up children. 17th birthday. We have to reach before their set time of the function.”

Mrs. Biswas came with tea.

After drinking tea both of them left.

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